Mount Maunganui’s main beach is home turf for the two women named as New Zealand’s women’s team for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.
The first ever women’s team is Kelsie Wills and Shaunna Polley.
Both are originally from the Waikato, with Kelsie now living in Mount Maunganui and Shaunna is commuting for training in the Mount four times a week.
The pair have been playing together since March last year and have established themselves with a bronze medal at the 2017 Ulsan 1 Star Event in Korea in July, and last weekend won the National Beach Championships held at the Main Beach.
This week they are competing in the Waikato Beach Open being held at the Te Rapa Beach Volleyball Centre – about as far from a beach as you can get in the North Island.
Sand for beach volleyball is subject to regulation by the sport’s governing body the FIVB, which means there will be some relief from the Gold Coast’s notoriously deep sand.
“It’s a bit deeper over there,” says Kelsi. “Apparently it’s reasonably deep here but nothing compared to that.”
“Yeah Gold Coast the sand’s too fine. When the sand’s fine it gets pretty deep and it makes it way harder to jump up,” says Shaunna.
“So they are importing their regular sand on top of the sand in the Gold Coast.”
“A lot of places we play, we are playing by the beach, but they have imported sand - so we are like at the beach, but not on the beach,” says Kelsi.
“We are lucky here, the sand’s pretty damn good here.”
Kelsi went to Matamata College and began playing volleyball in 2006. After completing an indoor volleyball scholarship to the US for four years and playing a year professionally in Paris, Kelsi returned to New Zealand last year. When she’s not training with Shaunna Polley she’s working as an auditor for KPMG Tauranga.
“I live in the Mount, work at KPMG Tauranga which is pretty handy for training and work. But I don’t have much of a life outside volleyball,” says Kelsie.
“Full time athletes, fulltime workers,” says Shaunna.
“Though we are not professionals, we play with professionals and against professionals. We earn a little bit of money,” says Kelsie.
Shaunna started playing volleyball in Hamilton in 2009. She’s still living in Hamilton where she studied for a Bsc in chemistry.
Most of their competition is similar to them says Kelsie, semi-professional and also working, except for the Canadian and Australian beach volleyball teams, which are fully professional – and the teams they want to beat.
It is the first time beach volleyball has been on a Commonwealth Games programme. New Zealand previously entered a men’s team to the Olympics in Atlanta Georgia in 1996, where they didn’t win a game.
The men’s commonwealth games beach volleyball team will be announced in a couple of weeks.